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In a world first, Israeli scientists grow testicles in a lab

In World
February 22, 2024

Researchers at an Israeli university have grown artificial testicles in a development they say could help treat infertility in men.

The organoids were produced from cells extracted from mouse testes, the New York Post reported.

Organoids are three-dimensional miniature versions of immature organs. Biologists have already created versions that resemble the brain, kidneys and intestines from stem cells.

The artificial testicles cannot produce sperm yet, the Daily Mail reported.

But the scientists, led by Dr Nitzan Gonen from Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, say they share many of the structural and genetic characteristics as the natural ones.

The team realised the procedure was a success when they identified tubule-like structures and cellular organisation that resembled that of in vivo, or “within the living”, testes.

The lab-grown mouse testicles functioned well for nine weeks. In theory, this is enough time for sperm production and hormone secretion, The Jerusalem Post reported. That process typically takes about 34½ days.

In the study done by Dr Gonen’s team, the scientists noted the organoids showed signs of “entry into meiosis”. This is the process that reduces the number of chromosomes by half to form sperm cells. These then “wait” for the completion of the other half from another reproductive cell, in this case an egg, upon fertilisation.

Dr Gonen’s team is now working to figure out whether their organoids can actually produce sperm cells, and whether they can produce sex hormones like testosterone.

The researchers are aiming to eventually develop human-like testicles from human stem cells.

They hope to be able to treat infertility in men.

“Fertility clinics are able to identify some of the problems that cause male infertility — a low sperm count or an abnormal structure — but we don’t understand fully what causes this, which genome mutations led to the condition, or what went wrong in the testicle’s functioning, as a result of which the tubes do not carry the sperm well,” Dr Gonen told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz last week.

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